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    Pet owners whose dogs suffer joint stiffness sought for new exercise study

    Posted 5 May 2021

    A dog looks happily at the blue sky near the sea.

    Zoe's dog Millie, who has inspired her study.

    Pet owners whose dogs suffer joint stiffness are being sought for a study aiming to discover if controlled and therapeutic exercise routines can help manage their pain more effectively.

    Harper Adams University BSc (Hons) Veterinary Nursing with Small Animal Rehabilitation student Zoe Bramham – whose own dog, Millie, has canine osteoarthritis – is planning to run the study. It will examine if a therapeutic exercise routine for dogs, which dogs and owners will complete instead of a walk, can have a beneficial effect.

    Zoe, from Solihull, said: “I have chosen this topic as it's personal for me, due to my own dog having osteoarthritis.

    “I wanted to explore how one of the most common pieces of advice given by vets to owners of arthritic dogs - to reduce or alter exercise - can impact both dog and owner and whether the option of therapeutic exercise could potentially improve symptoms of pain.

    “It is a topic that is being investigated more in human medicine and has shown promise for reducing pain in arthritic humans, but is not a widely recommended management technique in veterinary medicine due to limited research.”

    Zoe is now looking for dogs and owners to take part in a three-week study, which they can take part in at any time, but ideally complete before June 14. Participants can email her at to find out more.

    The study will involve the random allocation of participants to one of two groups, once they have completed a Liverpool Osteoarthritis in Dogs (LOAD) questionnaire and gained veterinary consent – which Zoe can help secure if participants have seen a vet in the last year.

    In both groups, participants will adjust their dogs’ exercise routine to two or three 20-minute walks daily. One group will also be required to complete a short therapeutic exercise routine twice a week in place of a walk. At the end of each week, each group will be asked to fill in a pain score and exercise questionnaire.

    Participation can be carried out at home by the owners of the dogs and will not require any changes to current medications - nor will any form of physiotherapy or any complementary therapies that potential participants are currently using need to be stopped.

    Zoe, 23, has found inspiration during her studies from seeing the care given to both Millie and to her cat, Axel, by vets and veterinary nurses.

    She added: “Both my pets are seniors and learning about their care has encouraged me to want to learn more about senior animal care in general, and it is a topic I'd love to continue to focus on in the future.

    “I chose my degree because I have always had an interest with working with animals and the veterinary industry, and found that veterinary nursing offered that work in a role that is always progressing and where the day is always varied.

    “I chose Harper Adams to study at partially because of the campus! I loved having the farm on site, not being in the city, and how friendly everyone was on the Open Day I went to.

    “I initially joined as part of an extended degree course, and loved Harper's attitude towards progressing us through that course onto our chosen HE courses and future careers. It was also a perk that the sandwich year on each course let us gain vocational experience alongside our degree - which a lot of other universities didn't offer.”

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